Effective Aid Ukraine History

In June 1998 journalist Tom McEnaney travelled to a village in Southern Belarus with a group of 60 Irish tradespeople to report on their two-week project to renovate one of the worst orphanages in that country.

He was reporting for an Irish newspaper called The Sunday Tribune but, as well as a camera and a notebook, he took with him a bag of tools and a determination to make a difference.

Some 25 years later he and the charity he founded have completely renovated nine orphanages, centres for children with disabilities and child prisons, across Belarus with about €3m in donated funds. He has installed seven 100-acre farms—many from scratch—to improve the quality of food in the orphanages, to teach children how to farm and to give the institutions a disposable income, usually for the first time.

Along the way he has led groups of Irish people every Christmas for each of those 25 years who have brought Santa Claus, or Dedz Moroz, to several hundred children across the renovated institutions. That Santa is important, not only for the toys he bring, but because it afforded the volunteers an opportunity to bring other items to the centres they had previously renovated.

Every year they brought thousands of euro of craft material to each institution. Other regular purchase were medicines, sanitary towels, tools, agricultural equipment, building materials, sports equipment, books and computers.

Tom also took on national projects, providing clothing, libraries and playgrounds to 60 child institutions across Belarus.

The charity Tom founded was originally known as the Chernobyl Orphanage Development Programme but then changed its name to the International Orphanage Development Programme (IODP)to reflect Tom’s global ambition. For instance Tom installed 450 libraries in orphanages across Southern India. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated Haiti, he designed a football suitable for children with no shoes and distributed 12,500 of them across schools and orphanages in Haiti.

But Tom’s heart remained with the Belarussian children with special needs he had been focussing on. As many of those children moved on to adult institutions IODP brought those institutions into its care. Its motto was that IODP supported children no matter what their age. Indeed, by 2022 and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine IODP had installed 15 playgrounds into those adult institutions to complement the 60 he had already installed in children’s homes.

IODP has a very particular way of operating. For instance, from its very first mission, all volunteers were required to pay for their own expenses, including accommodation and travel. It has always been and remains an almost zero cost charity. Indeed its only expense not directed at the people are the fees for independent auditors and accountants. It also strives to develop the most effective ways of helping, so that donations can have maximum impact.

When the invasion occurred IODP permanently ceased all operations in Belarus and switched its focus to Ukraine, renaming itself Effective Aid Ukraine (EAU). Since the full-scale invasion it has helped over 1,200 Ukrainians—almost all women and children—flee to accommodation in Ireland. That project continues.

In recent months EAU has shifted its emphasis to Ukraine itself. Partnering with the Lviv local authority, it has committed itself to the complete renovation of Rozdil Friends Home in the north of the Lviv Oblast. Rozdil is home to 97 boys and young men with significant special needs including 20 who have been relocated from the occupied Zaporizhzhia region.

EAU is in the process of establishing a new kitchen, laundry and playground in Rozdil and is already seeking out its next institutions, which it will then renovate while continuing work at Rozdil.

The organisation hopes to be able to help every residential centre for children in Ukraine and, having engaged with the relevant authorities, to develop national projects which can assist every institution and which can be executed quickly.